« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
circumstance, have imagined that there is one language proper to the whole nation ; but this is so far from being the case, that, as Mr. Barrow informs us, there are scarcely any two provinces in China which have the same oral language ; and Dr. Leyden, to whom we owe much valuable information on the literature of this family of men, declares that the same written words are read and understood by “ at least twenty different nations, who would scarcely understand a word of one another's speech, and would all use different words to express the same meaning.” The dialect which has obtained by distinction the title of Chinese, is the Kuan-hoa, the language of the Court and of the Mandarines, which was originally the proper speech of the province Kiang-nan, where the native Emperors of China formerly held their residence. Still greater is che diversity which prevails beyond the limits of the empire. It is only by comparing the internal structure of these dialects, and by considering the monosyllabic form and the uniform system of intonation which they all retain, that we derive an argument for the common origin of the nations who use them; an opinion which is, however, amply confirmed by their very striking resemblance in physical peculiarities and moral traits
The infinite variation of these languages, and their great mutability, is a fact scarcely reconcileable with the high antiquity which Mr. Adelung imputes to them. Rude unformed jargons, consisting of monosyllables unconnected by any rules of structure, are in their very nature so liable to perpetual fluctuation, that it seems absurd to consider them as relics of ancient times; and when we add to this the fact that the written characters have no relation to the vocal dialect, and therefore give no aid towards fixing and preserving the speech, as they do among nations whose letters represent sounds, the languages of this groupe are reduced to the same ever-changing condition with the mere oral jargon of savages, which often differs totally in contiguous districts, as in New Holland, where two neighbouring tribes call even the sun and moon by names quite distinct from each other. Since the proofs of antiquity so entirely fail in this quarter, we are naturally invited to turn our eyes to the boasted literature of China for something in aid of the tottering hypothesis of our author. But here, as he himself confesses, we find only a glimmering and unsteady light. The famous history of China, translated by the Jesuit Joseph Anne Marie de Moyriac de Mailla, and published by the Abbé Grozier in twelve quarto volumes, sets out from an epoch sufficiently remote: but what sort of documents do we draw forth from this precious store ? “ Stories of Emperors who find out arts and sciences by the dozen, who give command to their august consorts to invent manufactures, and who, in long-winded harangues, convince their mathematicians of the importance of dis-'
covering astronomy.” Even in that part of these annals, which is commonly considered as of unshaken authority, beginning with the year 207, B. C. our Author has fallen upon a most awkward stumbling-block. The great wall of China, perhaps the most stupendous monument of human labour that exists, is declared by the Chinese Annals to have been coinpleted 240 years B. C.
So prodigious a work, which has attracted the chief wonder of Europeans since their first acquaintance with China, could scarcely have remained unknown to any nation who carried on intercourse with that country. Yet Ptolemy, who describes the march of caravans into the country of the Seres, never gives the smallest hint of its existence. The Arabian travellers, whose voyages Renaudot has published, were equally unacquainted with it, and, what is still more strange, Marco Polo, who served three years in the army of Kublai Khan, and travelled to the North of China in 1270, and who must actually have passed under the great wall, if it had existed in his time, has omitted entirely to mention it, though he is minutely accurate in noting down all that he saw worthy of observation. This fact, when taken together with the modern aspect of the structure, shows us what degree of reliance can be placed on the Chinese history, even in those parts which are reputed most authentic. It is probable, indeed, that fragments are preserved among the Chinese as among other nations from remote times; but they are neither so well ascertained, nor so definite in time and circumstances, as to give us any insight into the history of the people.
Yet we wonder to find Mr. Adelung so quietly giving up a resource which promised support to his hypothesis, and we cannot but look upon it as an extraordinary piece of magnanimity. But when he acquiesces in the conjecture of Sir W.Jones, to which for our own parts we have no particular objection, that the Chinese are the offspring of a tribe which is mentioned in the Institutes of Menu to have emigrated from India, he seems to throw to the ground the whole fabric which he has been labouring to erect; for the “ Chinas” mentioned by Menu were a branch of the Hindu stock, had been subjected to the system of casts, and, of consequence, spoke the tongue of Hindustan. What then becomes of the Ogygian antiquity of China, and her primeval language?
We have no room to enter at length into our author's observations on the structure of these languages in particular. In general he seems to have made a good use of the resources of which he was possessed, and has given a very good digest of all the information which had been acquired on the subject of the Chinese language prior to the date of his work. Some progress had been made subsequently by our countrymen in the East, and we trust that what we have hitherto obtained is only the prelude to more important contributions. With respect to the nations of the Eastern Peninsula from the Ganges to China, and their dialects and literature, more valuable information is contained in the late Dr. Leyden's work, in the 10th volume of the Asiatic Researches, than the whole amount of our previous knowledge.
POLYSYLLABIC LANGUAGES. The chain of Mount Imaus separates the jargons of China and Tibet from a tribe of languages which has performed a much more important part as an instrument of human thought. If men had always been limited to the use of the rude uninflected dialects of north-eastern Asia, it would scarcely have been possible for them to have risen above the rank of barbarians.
The Sanscrit and its cognate dialects present the strongest contrast to the monosyllabic languages. We have observed, that the latter are incapable of inflection. The relations and modes of the chief words in a sentence are partly expressed by particles which are in themselves distinct roots, and are partly left to be understood : nouns express in themselves neither numbers, cases, nor genders; nor the verbs, moods, tenses, or persons. The Sanscrit, on the contrary, exhibits all these shades of ideas by inflections, which are in this more complicated and extensive than in any other language. A single word in Chinese is capable only of one application. In Sanscrit it gives origin to a numerous class of words, the whole of which the primitive idea pervades under an indefinite number of modifications. All the derivatives from one stock bear a certain stamp of affinity, and illustrate each other by their mutual relations. Hence this language and its sister dialects are exceedingly copious, and capable of expressing even the most general or abstract ideas with precision and at the same time with variety: they are applicable to all the purposes to which the human faculties can direct the use of words. Accordingly it is only among nations who use these dialects that the sciences have advanced, or that philosophy has flourished. Another consequence of this organized and systematic structure is the wonderful durability of this class of idioms, and the constancy with which they preserve their affinities and individual character, though scattered many thousands of years over distant parts of the earth. Their affinities are every where easily recognised, and the same families of words are traced back to similar origins: a sort of living principle seems to pervade them which preserves their organization in vigour, and propagates it to prepetuity. It is quite the reverse with the monosyllablic tongues ; each word in them is an unconnected individual. When lost, its place is supplied by another without difficulty. Hence these languages are in their nature, fluctuating, and subject to constant change, Mr. Adelung has given a very confused and imperfect account, VOL. II. NO. XII.
Tuin of the Britons; theatter have He tak
of the Sanscrit and its dialects; at which we cannot be surprised, as he was unacquainted with what Mr. Colebrooke and other learned members of the society at Calcutta have done of late years in opening the stores of Asiatic literature, and depended chiefly for information on the presumptuous and half-learned missionary Paullinus à $. Bartholomeo, whose crude misrepresentations have frequently been opposed by foreign writers to the authority of Sir W. Jones and Mr. Colebrooke. The invidious disposition towards the English which has been fostered of late among all ranks of people on the continent, has even extended itself to men of letters. We remember to have seen a review of English literature in a reputable periodical work published in France, in which Joel Barlow is mentioned as the only poet in our language, who has recently merited distinction! We find symptoms of a similar feeling even in the work of Mr. Adelung, He takes an opportunity of informing us that “ India since the ruin of the Mogul power has fallen under the tyranny of Mahrattas, Seiks, and Britons; the former of whom have exercised their wonted atrocity: the latter have been more systematic but not less oppressive in their conduct.” He takes every oportunity of lessening the reputation of our countrymen as oriental scholars, and of exalting, at their expense, the fame of any pitiful Romish monk, who can be forced into competition with them. There is as much folly as injustice in this attempt. The achievements of our learned men in the literature of India have been as preeminent as those of our arms upon her soil. But we hope that the time has passed by, when every pedant of the continent looked for patronage by insulting England, and when High Dutch philoso phers were vain of receiving the “ ton” from the frivolous Parisians.
As Mr. Adelung has been so unfortunate in the choice of his authorities, we shall pass by his account of the language of India, and shall present our readers with a brief sketch of what he ought to have done; availing ourselves of the documents which have been brought to light by our illustrious countrymen in the East
In adverting to the opinions which have been entertained concerning the Sanscrit, it is scarcely necessary to mention the whimsical notion, that it owes its origin to the invasion of Alexander and the Macedonian colony settled in Bactria, which was proposed in order to account for the refined character of the language, and its affinity with the Greek. It would be just as reasonable to imagine that our Teutonic dialect was introduced into this country by a regiment of Hussars from Hesse Cassel, or by an ambassador from the Hague. But the copious inflections of the Sanscrit, and the exquisite refinement of its grammatical system seemed to afford somewhat better ground for the opinion, that it never was the popular speech of any nation; but was formed by the concerted efforts of the Brahmans, who, by polishing and reducing to more complex rules the vulgar tongue of Hindustan, gradually constructed an artificial language adapted only to literary composition. Mr. Colebrooke has however fully refuted this notion, and has shown that there is no reason to doubt that the Sanscrit was once universally spoken in India, and that it was the parent of the modern dialects which are spread through that country from mount Imaus to Cape Comorin. “ It evidently," he says, “ derives its origin (and some steps of its progress may even now be traced) from a primeval tongue, which was gradually refined in various climates, and became Sanscrit in India, Pahlavi in Persia, and Greek on the shores of the Mediterranean.” He might have added that the Celtic, the German, and the Sclavonian, were less ornamented dialects of the same ancient language.
The Hindu grammarians distinguish three eras in the history of their national language. Ist. That of the ancient or classical Sanscrit. This is the idiom to which Adelung applies the term Déva Nágari, which is well known to every tyro to belong to no language whatever, but to be the designation of the alphabet used in Sanscrit composition. The second era is that of the Pracrit, under which name are included the ten provincial languages of India. The third, termed the Magad’hi, comprehends the po
anga Nagari u is the idee ist,"guish thre languaderonian, night crit, un Sanscriever, butwell knownhich is the ancient the histor
of Indiader which composition. The designatiyro to belonge term in The tents or Bhashaged the Magheten provincit of the price
The ten Pracrits are the written dialects which are now used in conversation, and are cultivated by literary men. There is reason to believe that ten polished dialects formerly prevailed in as many different civilized nations, who once occupied all the fertile provinces of Hindustan and the Dekhin. They are thus enumerated by the Hindu grammarians: 1. The Saraswati bála báni, or "speech of children on the banks of the Saraswati,” was the dialect of the Sareswata, a nation inhabiting the vicinity of the river Saraswati. This idiom is the Pracrit of the poets.
2. The Hindi was the dialect of the Cányacubyas, whose capital was the ancient city Canój or Canouge. This language is the ground-work of the modern Hindustani, which is intermixed with Persic and Arabic. Nine tenths of the Hindi may be traced back to pure Sanscrit; it has been said that the remainder is wholly distinct from it, and of separate origin, but this assertion, as Mr. Colebrooke observes, requires further proof.
3. The Gaura or Bengáli contains few words which are not evidently of Sanscrit origin.
4. Maithila or Tirhutiya spoken in the sircar of Tirhút, and as far as the Nepaul mountains, has a great affinity with the Bengalí.
5. Utcala or Odradésa, the language of Orissa.
These five nations of Hindus are termed the five Gaurs or Northern Nations; the remaining five are the Dravirs or Southern ones. 6. Drávira is the southern part of the peninsula where the